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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Installing A ESU Lok-Sound Decoder In A Kato Mikado

Detailed Tutorial - Installing A ESU Lok-Sound Decoder In The Kato Mikado

This is a very detailed picture tutorial of The ESU Micro Lok-Sound Decoder Installation In The Kato Mikado. The decoder installation in the Kato Mikado is one of the most difficult installations in a N scale steam locomotive, because the Kato Mikado is not "DCC Friendly". 
This detailed tutorial was published in the July-August 2007 issue of N Scale Magazine. The photo below was on the front cover of that issue.

If you follow the tutorial very carefully the photo's will guide you in the proper installation of a decoder in the classic steam locomotive, the Kato Mikado.


The main problem in installing a sound decoder in the Kato Mikado is finding enough room in the tender for both the decoder and speaker, plus the assorted wiring. When using the Lok Sound Micro decoder, one must use the Lok-Sound speaker that comes with the decoder as it has an amperage rating of 100. The specifications for the Lok-Sound micro decoder are as follows: 28mm x 10 mm x 5 mm; fits N and TT scales; operates on DCC, Motorola, or Selectrix, as well as conventional DC mode. All the prime mover sounds are active in DC operation, Back EMF features, silent running, two light functions and two additional function out puts. The sound is identical to Lok-Sound V 3.5 decoder; 4- Channel, load dependent sound stored on a 8 Megabit flash sound memory chip, up to 65 seconds of sound recordings.


This tutorial was published in the July - August 2007 issue of N Scale Magazine. The mighty ATSF # 4016 on the upper level of the JJJ&E was on the front cover of NSM in the July-August Issue of N Scale Magazine. The Micro Lok-Sound decoder tutorial is very detailed and slightly more complicated than the Lenz Gold JST decoder installation in the Kato Mikado. The Lenz JST decoder installation in the Kato Mikado will be discussed as well.If I were installing a Sound decoder in the Kato Mikado today (2010), I would use a Soundtraxx Micro Tsunami decoder because the sound coming from the decoder is more dynamic and the user can control many more sound functions. You can use an oval speaker placed under the coal load which is smaller in size than the Lok-Sound decoder speaker. The main problem in installing a sound decoder in the Kato Mikado is finding enough room in the tender for both the decoder and speaker, plus the assorted wiring. When using the Lok Sound Micro decoder, one must use the Lok-Sound speaker that comes with the decoder as it has an amperage rating of 100.


Included with the micro decoder is a 16 x 25 mm speaker and a detailed user guide. It has been said on many occasions that a decoder installation in a Kato Mikado is extremely difficult. I'm going to show you how easy it is to install a decoder in this fine steam loco and try to dispel all the rhetoric claiming how difficult it is. I've done almost 70 decoder installations using either a Lenz Gold JST decoder, a Lok-Sound micro decoder and Soundtraxx Micro Tsunami decoders in Kato Mikados. The JJJ&E has a roster of over 50 Kato Mikados. Needless to say, the Kato Mikado is my favorite steam loco in N scale. We are going to wire this loco for a decoder, using five wires which will be soldered to the loco mechanism. There will be NO wiring to the contact strips in the solder as this leads to erratic performance of this fine steamer. The Lok-Sound (ESU) micro decoder and its speaker will reside inside the tender. In this installation, the Lok-Sound (ESU) micro decoder will be placed in the Mikado tender. There will be quite a bit of juggling of both components (decoder and speaker) and wiring to make this happen. I prefer not to install this decoder in the steamer as I don't want to remove part of the weight that seats on the frame and I want easy access to the decoder in case of a failure at some point in time in the future.


First remove the draw bar from the loco. I loosened the gear plate (two screws) to free the draw bar. The rear truck will come loose as well. Replace the rear truck for the time being and re-tighten the two screws holding the gear plate in place. Be careful not to bend the draw bar. If the draw bar is bent in any manner, the operation of this steam loco will be compromised, as the draw bar is the weak link in the Kato Mikado. It might be wise to have two or three extra draw bars on hand. They can be purchased directly form Kato USA (KATO USA : Precision Railroad Models) or online


Now remove the cab and the piece directly below the cab. This piece slides out easily. The cab just lift off the boiler.


Lift off the boiler shell. Later we will cut an access opening in the back of the boiler shell above the instrument panel in the shape of a quarter moon. This will be an opening for the decoder wiring that passes from the loco to the tender. With this access opening, the wiring won't impinge on the flywheel. Just make the opening long and wide enough to accommodate the five wires.


Remove the smoke box. You have to slightly spread the pistons apart to remove the smoke box. Before you do this, lift the ladders and remove them from the boiler shell. If you spread the pistons too far apart, the entire valve gear will come loose and drop out. So be careful when doing this procedure.


Remove the side boards and the weight on top of the loco frame. The side boards are each comprised of two pieces and snap off each side of the frame. Now the loco is is ready for the decoder installation. Up to his point, only seven pieces have been removed from the chassis.


This is the fireman's side of the chassis. Notice the lower brush cap above the fourth driver. We need access to that lower brush cap, but it won't be necessary to remove the motor from the frame when it comes time to solder the orange wire from the decoder to this brush cap.


This is the engineer's side of the loco frame. The lower brush cap and copper contact strip can be seen. The copper contact strip has to be lifted out from between the motor and loco frame. This is how we get access to the lower brush cap. We're going to solder the orange lead from the decoder to this brush cap contact strip, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.


The light board seated on top of the frame slides out easily. The fireman's trace (left side) must be cut to accommodate the wiring for the front headlight. We will solder the white wire from the decoder to the light board above the cut trace. The left trace of the light board can be cut with an Exacto knife. Make sure you completely cut through this trace or you will have a short circuit when testing the loco. Now we have a problem to solve that wasn't prevalent in the Lenz Gold JST decoder installation. The wiring of this decoder is TOO SHORT to reach the terminals in the loco. So we must use scrap pieces of wiring in the appropriate colors when soldering the terminals in the loco. You then can solder these wires to the appropriate wires on the decoder. You'll see this problem when we work on the tender.


'Tin" all the wiring for the locomotive decoder wiring. Solder the white lead to the left trace above the cut. Also place some solder on the two traces adjacent to the loco frame on both sides of the light board. This is for the black and red leads which will be soldered to the light board.


Solder the red lead to the right side of the light board adjacent to the frame. Do the same for the black lead on the left side of the light board adjacent to the frame. Both of these leads will be soldered to the corresponding wires of the decoder later on.


Now remove the black retaining frame that covers the top motor brush cap. The copper contact strip under the brush cap must be cut off. First remove the brush cap. Watch out for the spring inside. It will pop off if you're not careful. Solder the gray lead from the decoder to the side of the brush cap. Be careful not to place too much solder on the side of the brush, or you won't be able to refit the black retaining frame on top of the brush. Replace the spring and brush cap on top of the frame.


The gray lead is soldered the side of the upper motor brush cap.


Now we're going to solder the orange lead of the decoder to the engineer's side of the lower brush cap contact strip. Lift the copper contact strip from between the motor and loco frame with a small instrument/jewelers blade. The orange wire of the decoder will be soldered to this contact strip. After soldering, place a piece of Kapton tape between the contact strip and loco frame. This will prevent the copper contact strip from contacting the loco frame. A short circuit in the wiring will occur if you don't use the Kapton tape in this step. Only use Kapton tape when working on decoder installation. Electrical tape doesn't work well and has problems with any heat generated.

Note-**** Place a thin strip of styrene/index card between the lower brush cap and frame of the locomotive. If this isn't done, the lower motor brush cap can touch the frame due to vibrations and short out the locomotive.


Now stabilize the wiring on both sides of the loco frame with some Kapton tape. Replace the retaining clip on top of the upper motor brush cap. Replace the weight on top of the loco frame. You can bevel the edge of the weight to make room for the wiring that passes along the lower edge of the weight. I found that it wasn't completely necessary to bevel the weight in most instances. I found that the boiler shell can be slipped on top of the loco frame without impinging any wiring.


A quarter moon access opening is cut in the back of the boiler shell above the instrument panel. This opening will allow the wiring from the loco to above the flywheel into the loco cab on route to the tender. The wiring from the loco is shown passing through the quarter moon opening above the instrument panel in the back of the boiler.



The installation of a Lok-Sound (ESU) decoder in the tender is much different than the Lenz Gold JST decoder in the same tender. We have to have enough room for the decoder and speaker of the Lok-Sound decoder to fit inside the tender body. First, create an access opening in front of the tender body for the wiring to pass from the decoder to the loco. Make sure that this opening is large enough for the wiring to pass through comfortably. Now in order to make enough room for the decoder and speaker, trim the plate that covers and protects the contact strips beneath the plate on the tender floor. Make this plate as thin as possible so there is room for the decoder and speaker to sit on the tender floor. This will be a process of trial and error. If the contact strips under the plate loosen, be careful that you don't bend them when repositioning them on the floor of the tender. Next, remove the coal load from the tender body. There are two clips that hold the coal load in place on the roof of the tender body. Now cut six or eight holes in the roof of the tender. The holes are needed for sound to pass from the speaker inside the tender to the outside. Also cut some very small holes in the coal load in a circular pattern. I used 70/80 files for this.


Now place the speaker and decoder in the tender body. The speaker must go in first. The top of the speaker must be put in position directly below the circular path of holes cut in the roof of the tender body. Then place some Kapton tape around the decoder to protect it from the bottom of the speaker, which is a magnet. Then place some Kapton tape to hold the wiring in place. Test fit the tender body on the frame to make sure that it seats properly. You might have to move the components around to get the correct fit. I also use some A-Line moldable lead to fill in any extra space in the tender body. Here is the completed decoder installation in the tender. You will note the short length of wiring coming from the decoder inside the tender. The decoder comes with a six pin European connector which must be cut off. Now you see why I used scrap wire leads for the wiring inside the loco. You must now shorten all the wiring leads from the loco and then solder them to their respective wiring inside the tender.First place some heat shrink tubing the scrap leads before the final soldering. The heat shrink tubing will cover each solder connection. I was able to fit the wiring with the heat shrink tubing inside the tender body. This is a difficult fit but it will work.


I used Polly Scale steam engine black to paint the wiring from the cab of the loco to the tender. This hides the wiring from view. You can also use Polly Scale grimy black.


This is a close up view of the holes cut in the tender shell roof. You can see the two rectangular holes for the coal load clips. The speaker sits directly below these holes in the tender body. This will alolow sound to come out of the tender shell.


I placed some holes in the coal load for the sound to pass from the tender to the outside. I used 70/80 files for the holes. These opening in the coal load are only visible on very close examination and are necessary for sound reproduction.

Before the Kato Mikado was re-assembled, I tested the decoder installation on the layout. I first programmed the decoder with the loco on the programming track of my Lenz 100 system. I then placed the loco on the JJJ&E to completely test the motor and sound functions of the decoder. Both motor and sound functions were working satisfactorily, so I re-assembled the loco in reverse order that it was taken apart. I'll spend a good amount of time working on the motor and sound CV's of this steamer to fine tune every CV. This won't happen in one sitting, as there are many CV's to adjust. This is by no means an easy installation. Extreme care must be taken to provide enough space in the tender for the decoder, speaker and ancillary wiring. Otherwise the installation is straight forward as long as you follow the steps in this tutorial.


I replaced the dummy front coupler on the pilot of the Kato Mikado with a Micro Trains coupler conversion kit # 2002. I used the MT conversion kit instead of a MT Z scale #905 coupler because I had several conversion kits for the Kato Mikado front coupler in my parts box. You can use either coupler.


A closeup view of the tender frame shows the mounting of the MT Z scale #905 coupler on the frame. This completes the tutorial. Now all that remains to be done is to install the detail parts that came with the Mikado. This can easily be accomplished if you work slowly and have the proper instruments to do the job.


A view of the body mounted Micro Trains Z scale #905 coupler on the rear of the tender frame. The MT Z scale # 905 coupler mates well with MT N scale couplers and looks more prototypically correct than an N scale coupler on the tender.


I now added the detail parts that came with the Mikado. I first added the stanchions and hand rails to the boiler. The rest of the detail parts followed. I used a small hemostat/needle holder to hold the stanchions and transferred them to the boiler shell. All the detail parts were added while the loco was placed in a shoe box. The shoe box keeps the small parts from flying around during placement. If this is your first Kato Mikado installation, installing the detail parts will take some time. It gets makes easier once you do two or three detail part installations.


I then installed the traction tire driver option on driver # 4. You can also install a traction tire driver on driver # 2. The addition of the traction tires on driver # 2 should improve the performance of this steamer by another 10-15%. This increased performance will vary based on your layout and the condition of the track. You unscrew the screws that hold the gear plate and remove the #4 driver. The traction tire driver slips in easily. Make sure the weight on the driver is exactly in the same position as the weights are on the other three drivers.



A closeup of the smoke box showing all the detail parts added.


The side rods and drivers were blackened with Neolube # 2. Neolube # 2 is a metal blackening agent. All that remains to be done will be to weather the Mikado which will be discussed in another tutorial.


The ATSF #4016 Mikado on the upper level of the "original" JJJ&E with the town of San Marino in the background.


The ATSF #4016 Mikado on the upper level of the "original" JJJ&E with the town of San Marino in the background. This photo appeared on the cover of the July_August 2007 issue of N Scale Magazine.

A closeup of the boiler of the ATSF #4016 on the upper level of the "original" JJJ&E.


ATSF #4016 Mikado leaving San Marino on the mainline track of the "original" JJJ&E.



ATSF #4067 Mikado on a siding near the turntable of the JJJ&E. There is a Soundtraxx Micro Tsunami sound decoder and Tony's mini oval speaker,in the tender. I used the Soundtraxx Micro Tsunami sound decoder for this installation as this decoder gives higher quality sound reproduction than the Lok-Sound decoder.

Backdrop buildings can be in the background against the Vinyl Roof Flashing backdrop.


ATSF 2-8-2 #4016 Mikado on the mainline in the center of San Marino.


Early Color photo of a ATSF 2-8-2 #4016 Mikado on the mainline in the center of San Marino. This locomotive was pictured on the front cover of N Scale Magazine in July-August 2007 regarding an article I wrote about "The Installation of a Lok-Sound Decoder in a Kato Mikado." I used five wired for the installation of this Lok-Sound decoder in the Kato Mikado. (Red,black,Gray,Orange and White) The blue wire wasn't used in this installation. It can be attached to the light board in a six wire installation. However six wires passing from the locomotive into the tender isn't necessary. The five wire installation works beautifully and has one less wire passing from the locomotive to the tender.


CB&Q #5502 and CB&Q #5504 O-4 Mikado's kit bashed from generic Kato Mikado's using GHQ pewter detail kits. I use the two decoder approach for motor functions and sound functions in both locomotives. Both steam locomotives are on the mainline in the center of San Marino.

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2 comments:

  1. Thank you for an excellent tutorial on the install of sound in the Kato Mikado.

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  2. Thanks for the great tutorial, since you are running so many Kato Mikados do know where I can find 2 detail kits for them, I just recently bought two of them and they are missing the detail parts and Kato has discontinued them, thanks Brent
    Southwesternrailroad@gmail.com

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